For two main reasons, the lesser known town of Balingoan is one of my favorite places in the Philippines for scuba diving. First is of course because of its rich marine life; and second, the absence of the usual tourist traffic that the other known dive sites get. These two translate to dive sites that are generally unspoiled and unexploited! The chances of sighting huge crowd of humans is close to zero. After all, we dive to see marine species and not humans
Balingoan is situated in Misamis Oriental, two hours north of Cagayan de Oro City. It is well known as the gateway to Camiguin, for it is where the tourists going to the island board the ferry. But unknown to many, the water around this small town that stretches towards Camiguin is bustling with vivid underwater life.
The rich water of Balingoan with Camiguin Island on the background.
There are more than a dozen known dive sites in Balingoan and Camiguin area, and certainly more that are yet to be discovered. So I went back late last year for my year-end dive with Ate Claudia, my favorite dive buddy who’s based in Cagayan de Oro. It was my fourth dive trip in the area but I was still excited as if it was my first.
Coming all the way from Manila, the plane touched down the new Laguindingan Airport past seven in the morning. With Balingoan around three hours away from Laguindingan, I sped fast towards Agora Bus Terminal where I met Ate Claudia. It was almost midday when we reached Mantangale Alibuag Dive Resort.
Cabbage corals of Banaug Shoal
Thankfully, the staff already prepared most of the things that we needed for the dive including the nitrox filled tank that we would be using. One of the things I love about Mantangale Alibuag Dive Resort is the free use of nitrox for nitrox certified divers. 🙂
When we were all set, we boarded the speed boat and headed to Banaug Shoal for our first dive. Banaug Shoal is the house reef of Mantangale Alibuag Dive Resort, which for me is one of the best house reefs I have dived. The diversity of marine life in this dense space is quite unbelievable, the explosion of colors underwater never seizes to amaze me.
Cute sea slug in Banaug Shoal
It wasn’t my first in Banaug Shoal and yet I was still amazed and entertained by the traffic and vividness of the site. Snappers, groupers, angelfish, butterflies, moorish idols, anthias, box fish, anemonefish, trumpets, trigger fish, leaf fish and a lot more species graced our dives, as well as the cute sea slugs and other macro species. They all made the small reef carpeted with soft and hard corals their home. And us, as guests, can’t help but just sigh in amazement.
Wearing wide smiles on our faces, we ascended after spending 45 minutes underwater. It was a good first dive!
A leaf fish! Can you see it?
After killing an hour at the dive shop for our surface interval, we went back to the water for our second and last dive at Lapinig Island.
If you have been to Balingoan en route to Camiguin, you probably noticed the very small island, more of an islet, in the port. That’s Lapinig Island! It looks dull and boring on the surface but what’s underwater is a different story. It’s an action packed world down there!
Table corals in Lapinig Island
Not minding the mild current, we gradually desceded on a sandy slope. I was actually hoping to see Manta Rays, Ate Claudia saw one when they dive on the same spot before. But no ray showed up, only the usual reef and macro species were there – butterflyfish, angelfish, anemonefish, groupers, striped fish, trumpets, anthias, nudis, bristle worms and others that I didn’t even know by name. Soft and hard corals, sea fans, feather stars and sponges add colors to the scenery. But due to its proximity to the port and residential area, there were some trashes around so we ended up picking trashes, a clean up dive!
On the surface, Lapinig Island looks dull. Underwater is a different story.
We surfaced after an hour underwater. It marks the end of the day for us and the end of our dive year 2013. It feels good to be with my favorite dive buddy in one of my favorite dive sites for this milestone.
Another year has passed, a year of more depths and more memories, and we look forward to another year of more underwater exploration and discoveries. The sea is a deep stash of treasures and surprises that we won’t get tired of exploring. We are hopeful that good vibes will reign on the coming year. I can’t wait for more underwater rendezvous in 2014! Bring it on!